A virtualist is a doctor who specializes in virtual medicine. She uses tools like VR headsets, spatial acoustics, haptic feedback, and even olfactory mimicry to induce reactions in patients’ bodies that help treat a variety of physiological and psychological conditions, from chronic pain, to compulsive behavior, without the use of pharmaceuticals or surgical techniques. Virtualists don’t exist yet, but after reading VRx they just might.
In recent years, scientists have established that people’s perceptions – their subjective experiences of the world – influence how their bodies work. We typically have little control over our perceptions, particularly when we are sick. But what could we do if we did? In VRx Brennan Spiegel introduces readers to a new kind of medicine, called virtual therapeutics, answering exactly this question, using technology that is already available.
It works through two basic but powerful psychological concepts: embodied cognition, the idea that thought processes involve the whole body, not just the brain; and presence, the ability of virtual reality to trick your body into thinking it’s somewhere that it isn’t, or can do something that it can’t usually do. VRx takes readers on a mindbending journey through the ways in which these deep connections between our minds and our bodies are being put to good use. We learn about the woman who endures an exceptionally painful labor by completing breathing exercises on a digital beach, the schizophrenic patient who literally confronts the demon inside his head, the burn victims who are able to manage their pain better after traversing snowy virtual landscapes, and the doctor who confronted his own fear of mortality by watching himself die.
Brimming with extraordinary stories of the power of virtual therapeutics to treat both physical and psychological conditions, VRx offers nothing short of a completely new way of healing.